All Hat, No Cattle

Perhaps you’ve heard this old saying. It refers to a cowboy wannabe who wears the ten gallon Stetson but doesn’t own any land or cattle and doesn’t know the first thing about ranching. The wonderful world of homeschooling is filled with people who are all hat, no cattle.

These are people who have all sorts of ideas about what’s wrong with homeschooling, how homeschooling ought to be done, the risks associated with “socialization” and the importance of a standardized education. None of them has ever spent so much as one single day actually homeschooling. Their opinions are about as valid as the opinions of any man on the topic of childbirth- not worth much if you’ve never actually been there and done that.

Unfortunately, even within the homeschooling community itself there are landmines created by people who are all hat, no cattle and they’re just waiting to blow up in your face. Lots of what passes for “homeschooling curriculum” was created by people who’ve never homeschooled. They have simply repackaged classroom curriculum and labeled it as “homeschooling curriculum” in hopes of cashing in on this growing market. The chances of it working well for you are about as likely as the odds of your pet canary falling in love with dog food that’s been relabeled “bird seed!” Classroom education has very little in common with the world of tutorial education- also known as “homeschooling.”

These products generally make several destructive assumptions; first that you have 9-11 hours available each day to devote to each grade level or subject and second that you have to throw mountains of “facts” at students because there’s no time to dialogue with individual students and see what they actually understand. How helpful- NOT!

You need to balance your many roles: homemaker, wife, mother, teacher, church volunteer and more. In most cases you have more than one grade level student and you can’t possibly spend hours planning lessons and delivering material. And while you don’t (and never will) have that kind of time available, you DO have time to get to dialogue with each student at a deeply personal level. You have time to interact with each student rather than simply burying them under an avalanche of disconnected facts and information in hopes of having some of it stick.

Choose a program like Five in a Row that has been developed by someone who has actually walked in your shoes successfully for a number of years; a program that takes into account the need to balance your many roles and which maximizes the opportunities you have to dialogue with each student. Then use it the way it was intended to be used until you have developed a good reason to deviate from that proven pattern.

Let’s have some fun today with the wonderful world of cowboys. If you’ve got any boots or hats around, make them into “cowboy boots” and “cowboy hats” today! Stick horses are fun, but a broomstick works just as well and is a great way to burn off lots of youthful energy as students gallop around the yard: Yeehaw! Watch a little rodeo action on television or youtube. Sing a few cowboy songs together and fix a cowboy lunch, which could be anything from a can of pork and beans to some bread and bacon. (Improvise and your kids will never know the difference!)

Now talk with them about the saying “all hat, no cattle” and explain to them what it means to go around talking big about something you really don’t know anything about. Remind them that humility is always more becoming than being a “know-it-all” even if you do know what you’re talking about!

Read and discuss these Bible verses about pride and humility…

Proverbs 11:2

Proverbs 15:33

Philippians 2:3


4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Jennifer said,

    Thank you for your posts. They are very encouraging.

  2. 2

    Oney said,

    I just love your blog entries. Your wisdom is so refreshing and encouraging! Keep it up. Your blog is among the few that make it to my “Favorites Bar” along the top of my browser screen. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. 3

    LisaM said,

    Thanks for the reminder that I don’t need to keep looking for that “missing piece” to make my homeschool “perfect” — that what my children need most is me! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. 4

    Zindra said,

    What a great phrase! Not heard it before. Will definitely use that one with the kids.

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